President Barack Obama, aiming to break an impasse in crisis talks on US debt, declared himself ready on Monday to pay the political price of a painful compromise and pressed his Republican foes to do the same.
“I do not see a path to a deal if they don’t budge, period,” Obama warned at a press conference with time slipping away before an August 2 deadline to avert a US debt default that could send shockwaves through the US economy.
Obama’s comments at the White House came hours before he was to meet with top Republican and Democratic leaders of the US Congress amid pessimism that politically polarized Washington could reach a deal.
“I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done. And I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing if they mean what they say, that this is important,” he said.
The president, whose 2012 reelection bid hinges largely on his handling of the fragile the US economy, vowed to push “for the largest possible deal” to close the yawning US deficit while raising Washington’s ability to borrow.
Obama noted “resistance” from fellow Democrats on possible cuts to cherished social safety net programs and opposition from Republican rank-and-file to possible tax hikes on the wealthiest US earners and rich corporations.
“But if each side takes a maximalist position, if each side wants 100 percent of what its, you know, ideological predispositions are, then we can’t get anything done,” he warned.
“We’re going to meet every single day until we get this thing resolved,” he told reporters, “We still have a lot of work to do, though, to get this problem solved.”
Obama, who has pressed for an agreement by July 22 to give lawmakers time to approve it by an August 2 deadline, ruled out a “temporary stopgap resolution to this problem.”
And asked directly whether the seemingly deadlocked talks would reach a compromise, averting a historic debt payment default, Obama replied: “We are going to get this done by August 2nd.”
Republicans have balked at a Democratic push to raise taxes on the richest US earners and wealthy corporations as part of any plan to slice deep into government spending, saying doing so would smother job growth.
Democrats have vowed to defend cherished social safety net programs like the Medicare health insurance for the elderly and disabled as well as Social Security retirement payments.
Obama met Sunday evening with congressional leaders, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner, but 75 minutes of talks failed to unblock an impasse that reaches right to the heart of America’s ideological divide.
The talks are part of a final major push to reach a deal to raise the congressionally determined limit on US borrowing, now set at $14.29 trillion, in the face of a budget deficit expected to hit $1.6 trillion this year.
The US hit the ceiling on May 16 but has since used spending and accounting adjustments, as well as higher-than-expected tax receipts, to continue operating without impact on government obligations.
By August 2, though, the government will have to begin withholding payments to bond holders, civil servants, retirees or government contractors, and the White House has urged a deal by July 22 to have time for Congress to pass it.
Economists warn that if the United States defaults, it could lose its ability to borrow, souring fraught financial relations with creditors like China and sending the already sour global economy into a tailspin.
Boehner faces pressure from Republicans close to the archconservative “Tea Party” movement to reject any compromise that raises taxes, something he has already publicly ruled out.
The speaker and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday they were backing off a larger, comprehensive debt reduction deal because Democrats insisted on tax increases.
The Republican move would leave negotiators aiming at a less ambitious framework, striving to save about $2.4 trillion over the next decade instead of the $4 trillion still sought by the Democrats.
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